MPNS Newsletter March 2018 - Best practice guidelines for using medicinal plant names
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Dear <<First Name>>,

It's been a while since we were in touch and we hope you continue to find Kew’s Medicinal Plant Names Services a useful resource. We have been busy updating our webpages and continuing to add data to the resource. In this issue of the newsletter we respond to one of the more frequent questions we receive, how should researchers cite medicinal plant names?

Best practice guidelines for using medicinal plant names

A couple of years ago we were asked to provide guidelines for those publishing technical and scientific information about medicinal plants. 

In summary we advised:
  1. Do not use common or pharmaceutical names alone: always cite a scientific name.
  2. Always cite the scientific name in full: genus, species, subspecies or variety if appropriate and include the author (at least the first time that it is mentioned) to ensure that you are not using an ambiguous name.
  3. Use the currently preferred scientific name of a plant wherever possible, and cite your source.
  4. Make sure that you are aware of all synonyms.
  5. To obtain the most recent taxonomy and nomenclature of a particular plant consult the following resources in this order: 
    1. Medicinal Plant Names Services
    2. Plants of the World Online (for plants not found in MPNS)
    3. The Plant List (for plants found neither in MPNS nor POWO).
Recent Articles

These guidelines, the reasons for them, and a summary of the most frequent mistakes people make, are covered in more detail in our article:

Common mistakes when using plant names and how to avoid them

And we were pleased to see that these guidelines have been adopted in the ConSEFS statement that “defines best-practice in developing, conducting and reporting field studies focusing on local and traditional uses of medicinal and food plants”:

Best Practice in Research: Consensus Statement on Ethnopharmacological Field Studies

Also, we recently published a description of the sorts of errors found in scientific publications on medicinal plants, using Hypericum perforatum L., St John’s wort as an example:

A review of issues of nomenclature and taxonomy of Hypericum perforatum L. and Kew’s Medicinal Plant Names Services
What’s Next?

Our next newsletter is being prepared and covers another of our most frequent questions ‘Why use MPNS rather than The Plant List?’

Version 8 of the MPNS resource is to be published soon and we will let you know once it is available.

As always please get in touch if you have any thoughts or questions about our work,

All the best,
Bob, Liz and the MPNS team
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